Ashley Forest, North Canterbury
Guest blog by Libby Hurley
The Ashley Forest (access via Forestry Road) is a great place to build confidence and fitness on your brand spanking new mountain bike! If you stick to the forestry roads, you won’t find yourself on anything other than gravel surface with heaps of room either side. There are a few climbs in amongst the forest where you might need to utilise those smaller gears, but that’s nothing to be ashamed about. There are many Strava segments within the forest which are all about speed, no matter which gear you’re in!
Once you get to know the forest and all of its roads, it is very easy to tailor your training to your specific need. For example, I am working towards Le Race and Grape Ride at the moment, so I’m gearing up my hill training a notch. There are a few steep roads that drop down from a ridge all the way to the bottom road (Eddys, Broom and Corsican Roads). I have found these are really good for interval training. They feel never ending on the way up, but you get a recovery on the way down again.
If you are wanting to run/walk and mountain bike in one training session there are a few great options which allow you to climb Mt. Grey with a MTB on either side of the hike.
My friend, Kasey, and I regularly train in the forest. One of our favourite trips is a MTB starting at the carpark area on Barron Ave, heading up Thomson Road very quickly coming to Stony flat Road on the right. We follow Stony, as it climbs all the way to Lawrence Road. Shortly after having turned left onto Lawrence we turn right onto Mt Grey Road and head straight for the Mountain. (There are multiple ways to access Mt Grey Road from the carpark but that is our pick). After arriving at either Lake Janet or the Grey River on bikes (depending on the distance we feel like hiking), we swap the cleated MTB shoes for sneakers! Once we get that ‘selfie’ at the summit, the hike is finished and we MTB back to the car whichever way looks good on the day.
The gear I carry with me for anything longer than 2 hours includes: basic first aid kit, pocket rain jacket, thermal and cellphone. For a bike and hike session, I would also carry a bladder of water for the hike and a pair of running shoes whilst on my MTB ready to throw on for the hike. It is also a good idea to take a bike lock if you’re planning on leaving your valuable toy alone while you head up the mountain on foot. We lock and hide our bikes in bushes or out of the way so people aren’t tempted to knick our snazzy wheels.
To gain access to the Ashley Forest you need to be a member of the North Canterbury Cycling Club. When you sign up to the club request a "Forest Pass" which comes in the form of a tag that you must have on you while riding within the area. You could be stopped and asked to show your pass at anytime. The forest is operational during business hours so access is only permitted after these hours and on weekends or public holidays. It can also be closed due to fire risks at certain times of the year but the club send out frequent updates to keep members informed.
We are so lucky to have a great training ground right at our fingertips! Get out there and try the forest out! Make sure you let us know how you get on!
Follow Libby on Strava for more cool rides.